By Theodore Opara
FOR more than four decades, Chief Michael Ade Ojo has bestrode the Nigerian automotive sector like a collosus. He began with the sale of various auto brands such as Peugeot, Volkswagen, etc, before finally settling for Toyota, a product he turned to a household name in the country.
Ade Ojo was not born with a golden spoon, he worked hard to achieve success. It would indeed be difficult to discuss the automotive industry, insurance and education in the country without a mention of his contributions in these areas.
Though he will be 80 later this year, he has not slowed down on his busy schedule. He moves from one management and board meeting to another without any sign of weakness. To his credit are several thriving organisations, among which is a new generation tertiary educational institution, Elizade University, in his country home, Ilara Mokin (Ondo State).
Born on June 14, 1938 to the family of Chief Solomon Ojo of the Lamilohun Lisa Chieftaincy House and Chief (Mrs) Beatrice Ademolawe Ojo at Ilara-Mokin in Ondo State, Ade Ojo had his primary education at St. Michael’s Anglican School, Ilara-Mokin, after which he proceeded to Imade College, Owo under the headship of the late Pa Adekunle Ajasin in 1954.
He thereafter undertook an 18-month course at the School of Agriculture, Akure after which he had a stint as a laboratory technician in the Ministry of Agriculture, Moore Plantation, Ibadan before proceeding to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, UNN, in September 1961. At the university, he studied Business Administration and graduated with a Second Class Upper Division in June 1965.
Uncertainty of private enterprise
After his graduation in 1965, Ade Ojo worked with CFAO (which had sponsored him during his last two years at the university) and later moved to the Federal Inland Revenue Department. He was at British Petroleum Nigeria Limited between July 1967 and July 1971 where he distinguished himself as the company’s best sales representative.
He also attended various management development courses including the Chief Executive’s Programme of the Lagos Business School (CEP-7) now Pan-Atlantic University and the IESE/LBS Seminar on Competitive Strategy and Value Creation in Barcelona, Spain.
In fulfilment of his resolve to establish his organization within 10 years of graduation, he abandoned the certainty of a plum colonial job for the uncertainty of private enterprise.
The result was the establishment of Elizade Independent Agencies; a family business co-founded with his late wife, Chief (Mrs.) Elizabeth Wuraola Ojo in 1971. The company was later incorporated as Elizade Nigeria Limited in 1973 to deal in Toyota motor vehicle sales, spare parts and service. This business has remained success story in Nigeria’s automobile industry to date, thus corroborating John Scully’s famous statement that “the future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious”.
Today, the company which Ade Ojo started with just one support staff in 1971 has become a conglomerate with several subsidiaries including Toyota Nigeria Limited, Mikeade Investment Co. Ltd, Mikeade Property Dev. Co. Ltd, Classic Motors Ltd, Elizade Autoland Nigeria, Okin Travels Ltd, Oodua Creations Ltd, among others.
His love for the economic development in Nigeria led him to his building of a vehicle assembly plant which was completed in November 2015 for the assembly of Toyota and JAC vehicles. He has invested about $50m in the plant which is capable of assembling 40,000 units of cars, light trucks and mini buses per year. His group of companies contributed about N200billion to the economy of Nigeria between 2005 to 2015 in terms of Customs duties, VAT, company income tax, education tax excluding the personal income taxes of the management and staff. Ade Ojo is gradually transforming his native town Ilara-Mokin from a village to an economically vibrant town through his various community development projects. These include the construction of 8.5km Ilara-Mokin township roads with side shoulders and drains at a cost of N205 million in 2005 as well as his financing of the Shield Micro Finance Bank Limited. He has also assisted a number of indigenes through his economic and financial empowerment programmes. Little wonder he was awarded the prestigious chieftaincy title of “Aare Ataiyese of Ilara-Mokin” by his people in 1992 and in 2007 was awarded the Asiwaju of Imesi-Ile, the home town of his late wife, Chief (Mrs) Elizabeth Wuraola Ojo. In January 2010 he was conferred with yet another prestigious chieftaincy title of Baaloro of the Source, Ile-Ife by the late Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade.
A disciplinarian and stickler for details, Ade Ojo never takes ‘No’ for an answer. He insists that every problem has a solution and holds tenaciously to his unchanging principles of hard work, honesty and integrity, which have seen him through turbulent times. A patriot and a lover of culture, Ade Ojo has continued to demonstrate his love for the country at all times.
His passion for the sustenance of Yoruba culture motivated him to establish Oodua Creations Limited, a garment manufacturing outfit which specializes in traditional and corporate wears with the use of Nigerian Fabrics. This has won international awards at various times.
He is also an ardent lover and supporter of education. Apart from donations to various educational projects, he set up the Ade Ojo Scholarship Scheme in 1991 from which more than one hundred and twenty students have benefited.
In realization of the dearth of skilled technicians and artisans in the country, he and his late wife decided to arrest the situation by proposing to establish Elizade Polytechnic, which was conceived as a skill acquisition centre where technical and entrepreneurial skills could be imparted to youths from all parts of Nigeria and beyond.
The need to move with the contemporary trend, occasioned by the Federal Government’s policy change on polytechnic education coupled with the desire to provide, at the highest level, quality education to the teaming population of Nigerian youths, led to the commencement of Elizade University in January 2013. Elizade University was set up to be a student-centred university, with great emphasis on best practices in the delivery of teaching, research and community services. The university had her maiden convocation in April 2017.